It’s eerie how very Edward Cullen-like Tom Sturridge looks like in the 2022 Netflix series ‘The Sandman’, which is quite distracting in the beginning, because he keeps reminding you of Robert Pattinson instead of his titular character Morpheus – the God of dreams aka Sandman. However, to be fair, Morpheus’ depiction is quite vampire like in the original Neil Gaiman comics, and to Sturridge’s credit, he does sound God-like in the series.
Created by Neil Gaiman, David S. Goyer and Allan Heinberg, Netflix for the first time has a massive fantasy franchise on its hand. Spread over ten chapters, episode one does a brilliant job of setting up the premise for ‘The Sandman’, especially for those who haven’t read the comic series. The story begins with a cult accidentally capturing Morpheus and keeping him in captivity for over a century. They steal three of his precious items that give the captors a long and prosperous life. When he is finally free, Morpheus seeks both vengeance and his belongings. He also has the additional task of re-building his realm ‘The Dreaming’, which falls apart in his absence, with almost all his creations abandoning it, except for the perceptive librarian Lucienne, portrayed brilliantly by Vivienne Acheampong.
‘The Sandman’ retains its dark gothic tone from the comics in the Netflix adaptation, is just as grand in scale and complex in its themes – only Gaiman can make even Gods have an existential crisis. There is some stunning CGI work in the season which will have fantasy fans absolutely thrilled. It’s admirable how depending on the scene, the tone and mood of this series might change from a tragic Shakespearean play to a more modern horror-fantasy one might expect from a Guillermo del Toro. Although, after a very gripping first three episodes, the plot begins to slip a little and was at its lowest point at episode 5. Titled ’24/7′, episode 5 focuses heavily on a character called John (David Thewlis who played Professor Lupin in the HP movies) who is in possession of the Dream Lord’s ruby and he uses it to make a group of humans unravel their true selves at a diner, leading to some devastating consequences. The episode felt too long drawn, it over-explains the powers of the Ruby and tires out the viewer.
Thankfully, Episode 6 drives the plot to an interesting point again; titled ‘The Sound of her Wings’, it introduces Morpheus’ most powerful sibling – Death. It’s a leisurely paced episode, exploring how Death (played by a rather charming Kirby Howell-Baptiste) goes about her business – claiming lives – while casually chatting with her brother. It was a simple and poignant look at different sorts of people in their last moments and how ‘The Endless’ (Morpheus and his siblings) are there to serve humans and not vice-versa. The episode is also intertwined with a very amusing tale of a human, who is perhaps the only mortal friend of our protagonist.
Some other characters who stood out in this ensemble cast are Mason Alexander Park, who is pure perfection as the gender-fluid ‘Desire’, their cameo is vividly brief, leaving you wanting more; Boyd Holbrook is evil personified as nightmare turned serial killer ‘The Corinthian’ and gets enough screen space to leave a lasting impression on the viewer. Gwendoline Christie makes for an imposing Lucifer… we are so used to men playing the ruler of Hell, it takes a few seconds to get accustomed to Christie’s stylized version of the fallen angel. Tom Sturridge definitely grows on the viewer with each scene, and finally shakes off the vampire image and settles in your mind as the brooding God of Dreams with one too many issues of his own.
Overall, ‘The Sandman’ faces a few continuity issues, but more than makes it up for it through it’s fantastic cast and settings. The second-half of the season deals with a completely new sub-plot – about a ‘vortex’ that’s born once in a few thousand years as a mortal with the potential to destroy universes. While the ‘vortex’ is tied to the beginning of the tale, the story wasn’t as exciting as it could’ve been. Regardless, the last episode left me in a very satisfied mood. The season ends in a way where you know there is a lot left to explore in more seasons, yet you don’t feel like the creators left you hanging.
It’s a 7.5/10 from me.
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